The Ukrainian Air Force (Ukrainian: Повітряні сили Збройних сил України, romanizedPovitryani syly Zbroynykh syl Ukrayiny, PS ZSU) is the air force of Ukraine and one of the seven branches of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.[5] Its current form was created in 2004 by merging the Ukrainian Air Defence Forces into the Air Force.

Ukrainian Air Force
Повітряні сили Збройних сил України
Emblem of the Ukrainian Air Force
Active1917–1921
1992–present
CountryUkraine
TypeAir force
RoleAerial warfare
Size35,000 (2022)[1]
207 aircraft (2021)[2]
Part ofArmed Forces of Ukraine
HeadquartersVinnytsia
AnniversariesAir Force Day
(6 August)[3]
Engagements
Commanders
CommanderLieutenant General Mykola Oleschuk
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air ForceChief Master Sergeant Kostiantyn Stanislavchuk
Insignia
Roundel
Fin flash
Flag
Aircraft flown
AttackSu-24M, Su-25
FighterMiG-29, Su-27, F-16
HelicopterMi-8T, Mi-17
ReconnaissanceAn-30, Su-24MR, Bayraktar TB2, Tu-141, Tu-143, RQ-11
TrainerAero L-39
TransportIl-76MD, An-24, An-26B, An-30, An-70, An-178

When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, many aircraft were left in Ukrainian territory. After Ukrainian independence in 1991, the air force suffered from chronic under-investment, leading to the bulk of its inventory becoming mothballed or otherwise inoperable.[6] However its domestic defense industry Ukroboronprom and its Antonov subsidiary are able to maintain its older aircraft.[7]

The Ukrainian Air Force participated in the war in Donbas.[4] Following the 2014 ceasefire, the air force was suspended from carrying out missions in the areas of Donbas.[8] Since February 2022, the Air Force has been engaged in constant combat operations in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The main inventory of the air force still consists of Soviet-made aircraft, but pilots are training to fly the F-16[9] and Mirage 2000.

Missions

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The role of the Air Force is to protect the air space of Ukraine. The objectives are: obtaining operational air superiority, delivering air strikes against enemy units and facilities, covering troops against enemy air strikes, providing air support to Ukrainian Ground Forces, Marine Corps and the Navy in wartime operations and peacetime exercises, disrupting enemy military movements on the ground, air and sea, disrupting enemy communications, and providing air support by reconnaissance, airdrops, and troop and cargo transportation in peace and war.

In peace-time, this is carried out by flying air-space control missions over the entire territory of Ukraine (603,700 square km), and by preventing air space intrusion along the aerial borders (totaling almost 7,000 km, including 5,600 km of land and 1,400 km of sea). Over 2,200 service personnel and civilian employees of the Air Force, employing 400 items of weapons and equipment, are summoned daily to perform defense duties.[10]

On average, the Ukrainian radar forces detect and track more than 1,000 targets daily. As a result, in 2006 two illegal crossings of the state border were prevented and 28 violations of Ukrainian air space were prevented. Due to such increased strengthening of air space control, the number of air space violations decreased by 35% compared to the previous year, even though the amount of air traffic increased by 30%.[10]

History

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1917–1945

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A Nieuport 17 of the Ukrainian Galician Army

Ukrainian military aviation started with the winter 1917 creation of the Ukrainian People's Republic Air Fleet, headed by former commander of the Kyiv Military District Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Pavlenko.[11] Previously, while in Russian service in World War I, Pavlenko was in charge of air security of the Russian Stavka.[12]

Sometime in 1918 the West Ukrainian People's Republic created its own aviation corps with the Ukrainian Galician Army headed by Petro Franko, a son of renowned Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko. In 1918 he organized an aviation school of the Ukrainian Galician Army Command Center which was active until 1920.[13][14]

The airplanes used by Ukraine in this period included Belgium-built SPAD S.VIIs. The Ukrainian Galician Army used Nieuport 17 biplanes. At the beginning of 1918, 188 aircraft of 26 models were listed in Ukrainian registers.[11]

During World War II, Ukrainian pilots took part in combat operations as part of the Soviet Air Force. Among these pilots, Ivan Kozhedub is notable for being the highest-scoring Allied ace with over 60 credited solo victories.[15]

Collapse of the USSR

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Air Forces

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On the basis of the ex-Soviet Air Forces formations in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Air Force, as a service branch of the young Armed Forces, was established on 17 March 1992, in accordance with a Directive of the Chief of the General Staff of the AFU. The headquarters of the 24th Air Army of the Soviet Air Force in Vinnytsia served as the basis to create the Air Force headquarters. Also present on Ukrainian soil were units of the former Soviet 5th, 14th, and 17th Air Armies, plus five regiments (185th, 251st, 260th, 341st Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiments and 199th Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment) of the 46th Air Army, Long Range Aviation. In addition, the 161st Maritime Fighter Aviation Regiment, at Limanske in Odesa Oblast, came under the supervision of the AFU.[16] It had formerly been part of the 119th Maritime Fighter Aviation Division of the Black Sea Fleet (Soviet Navy).

The new Air Force inherited the 184th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment (201st Heavy Bomber Aviation Division) of Tupolev Tu-160 'Blackjack' which were based at Pryluky.[17] Discussions with Russia concerning their return bogged down. The main bone of contention was the price. While Russian experts, who examined the aircraft at Pryluky in 1993 and 1996, assessed their technical condition as good, the price of $3 billion demanded by Ukraine was unacceptable. The negotiations led nowhere and in April 1998, Ukraine decided to commence scrapping the aircraft under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Agreement. In November, the first Tu-160 was ostentatiously chopped up at Pryluky.[18]

In April 1999, immediately after NATO began air attacks against Serbia, Russia resumed talks with Ukraine about the strategic bombers. This time they proposed buying back eight Tu-160s and three Tu-95MS models manufactured in 1991 (those in the best technical condition), as well as 575 Kh-55MS missiles. An agreement was eventually reached and a contract valued at $285 million was signed. That figure was to be deducted from Ukraine's debt for natural gas. A group of Russian military experts went to Ukraine on 20 October 1999 to prepare the aircraft for the trip to Engels-2 air base. Between November 1999 and February 2001 the aircraft were transferred to Engels.[18] One Tu-160 remains on display in Poltava.[19]

Ukraine also had Tupolev Tu-22s, Tupolev Tu-22Ms and Tupolev Tu-95s for a period after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The 106th Heavy Bomber Aviation Division, part of the 37th Air Army, operated some of them.[20] However, these have all been scrapped, apart from a handful displayed in museums. TU-16 and TU-22M bombers were among the aircraft destroyed under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty.[21] By 1995, the IISS Military Balance 1995/96 listed no Tu-22 Blinders in service, though a listing for one division HQ and two regiments of Tu-22M Backfires remained in the Military Balance from 1995/96 to 2000/01.

From 24 January 1992, after the collapse of the USSR, 28th Air Defense Corps, previously subordinate to 2nd Air Defence Army was transferred under the 8th Air Defence Army of Ukraine.[22] Units stationed in Moldova were transferred to the Moldovan Armed Forces (275th Guards Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade, battalions and companies from the 14th Radio-Technical Brigade). There were about 67,000 air defense troops in 1992. The headquarters of the Ukrainian Air Defence Forces was formed on the basis of HQ 8th Air Defence Army.[23]

There were also three air defence corps: the 28th (Lviv), 49th (Odesa), and 60th (Dnipropetrovsk). Holm reports that all three air defence corps were taken over by Ukraine on 1 February 1992, and that the 28th ADC became the Western AD Region on 1 June 1992. The first issue of the Military Balance after the Soviet collapse, 1992–93, listed one Air Defence army, 270 combat aircraft, and seven regiments of Su-15s (80), MiG-23s (110) and MiG-25s (80).[23]

By March 1994 Air Forces Monthly reported three air defence regions: the Southern with the 62nd and 737th Fighter Aviation Regiments, the Western with the 92nd (transferred from 14th Air Army and based at Mukachevo), 179th, and 894th Fighter Aviation Regiments (from 28th AD Corps/2nd Air Defence Army), and the Central with the 146th (Vasilkov), 636th (Kramatorsk, seemingly disbanded 1996 and its Su-15s broken up for scrap),[24][25] and 933rd Fighter Aviation Regiments.[26] The Military Balance 95/96 said that six fighter regiments had been disbanded.[citation needed]

In March 1994 the 14th Air Army became the 14th Air Corps, and on 18 March 1994 the 5th Air Army was redesignated the 5th Air Corps.[27] The two air corps remained active in 1996: the 14th in the Carpathian MD and the 5th in the Odesa MD, which by that time incorporated the former Kyiv MD area.[28] The long-range bomber division at Poltava was still operational, reporting directly to Air Force headquarters. This division headquarters was probably the 13th Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Division.[29]

Air Defence Forces

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The Soviet Army kept the forces dedicated to national air defence (Soviet Air Defence Forces) independent from and equal in status to the Soviet Air Forces. The units dedicated to the air defence of the ground formations were also kept separate from the Air Defence Forces and integrated into the Ground Forces. During the Soviet period the air defence of the Ukrainian SSR was provided as follows:

  • 28th Corps of Air Defence (HQ in Lviv), part of the 2nd Separate Army of Air Defence (HQ in Minsk, Byelorussian SSR) provided air defence umbrella over the western parts of the country;
  • 49th Volgogradskiy Red Banner Corps of Air Defence (HQ in Dnipropetrovsk), part of the 8th Separate Army of Air Defence (HQ in Kyiv) provided air defence umbrella over the central and eastern parts of the country;
  • 60th Red Banner Corps of Air Defence (HQ in Odesa), part of the 8th Separate Army of Air Defence (HQ in Kyiv) provided air defence umbrella over the southern parts of the country.

In 1992 the newly independent Ukrainian State took over control over the three AD corps stationed in Ukraine and retained the Air Defence Forces of Ukraine as a separate armed service, equal in status to the Ground Forces, Air Forces and the Navy. The 28th Corps was transferred to the now-Ukrainian 8th Separate Army of Air Defence,[30] and the army was later re-designated as the Air Defence Forces of Ukraine (Вiйська Противоповiтряної оборони України). The ADFU existed as a separate service from 1992 to 2004, when they were merged with the Air Forces of Ukraine (literally Military Aviation Forces or Вiйськово-Повiтрянi Сили) to form the present-day unified Air Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (Повiтрянi Сили Збройних Сил України).

1991–2014

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After Ukrainian independence in 1991 the Air Force suffered from chronic under-investment, leading to the bulk of its inventory becoming mothballed or otherwise becoming inoperable.[6]

The An-24 and An-26 aircraft, as well as the S-300 and Buk M1 anti-aircraft systems, were continually modernized, and their service life was extended. An organizational basis and technological means for modernizing MiG-29, Su-24, Su-25, Su-27, L-39 was produced. Given sufficient funding from the Verkhovna Rada, the Defense Industrial Complex of Ukraine, in cooperation with foreign companies and manufacturers, is capable of fully renewing the aircraft arsenal of the Ukrainian armed forces.[31][32]

In 2005, the UAF was planning to restructure in an effort to improve efficiency. Ukraine was planning to put more advanced jet aircraft into service. Possibly buying newer SU-27s and MiG-29s from Russia. The plans were, that from approximately 2012, Ukraine would have to either take bold steps to create a new combat aircraft or purchase many existing combat aircraft. Due to the lack of funding, technical modernization was continually postponed. The Ukrainian air force continued to use armament and military equipment which functioned mainly thanks to so-called ‘cannibalization’ (obtaining spare parts from other units), thus gradually depleting their total capabilities. Faced with the threat of losing military capability, initiating the process of technical modernization became a necessity.[33]

 
A Ukrainian Sukhoi Su-27 in July 2011

In 2011 the International Institute for Strategic Studies estimated that Ukraine's Air Force included one Sukhoi Su-24M regiment, 5 regiments with Mikoyan MiG-29s and Sukhoi Su-27, one regiment with Sukhoi Su-25,[34] two squadrons with Sukhoi Su-24MR, three transport regiments, some support helicopter squadrons, one helicopter training regiment, and some air training squadrons with L-39 Albatros. The IISS said they were grouped into the 5th and 14th Aviation Corps, the 35th Aviation Group, which is a multi-role rapid reaction formation, and a training aviation command. The IISS assessed the overall force size as 817 aircraft of all types and 43,100 personnel.[35]

Collection, processing and transmission of radio information was automated as part of the Automated Command and Control System for aviation and air defense. Operational service testing of the circular surveillance radar station was also completed. Prototypes of high-precision weapons systems, electronic warfare devices, and navigation equipment were created and developed for state testing.[36]

Role in the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Following the Revolution of Dignity and subsequent March 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and the following violence and insurgency in east Ukraine, Ukraine tried to increase its defence spending and capabilities - with returning equipment to service being a key part of the spending drive.[6]

During the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea the air force did not fight but lost several aircraft to Russia; most were returned to Ukraine.[37] The air force took part in the conflict against the 2014 insurgency in Donbas.[4] During this conflict it lost several planes and helicopters. The US embassy in Kyiv reported that Ukraine lost 19 planes and helicopters between 22 April - 22 July 2014.[38] According to an unverified October 2015 report by Swiss technology company RUAG the Air Force had lost nearly half of its (combat) aircraft (since early 2014).[39] RUAG believed that 222 of the Air Force's 400 aircraft had been lost.[39]

Since 12 July 2014 the Ukrainian Air Force has been put on full combat alert.[4] Around this date the Air Forces started restoring its former military airfields in Voznesensk (Mykolaiv Oblast), and Velykyi Buialyk and Artsyz (both in Odesa Oblast).[40]

Ukraine inherited a large inventory of aircraft from the Soviet Union, these were mostly decommissioned and stored as the nation had little use or funding to keep a large fleet active. In 2014, the air force announced that it would be bringing back 68 aircraft that had been in reserve since the collapse of the Soviet Union, including the Tupolev Tu-141 reconnaissance drone.[6][41][unreliable source?][42] In April 2014 two MiG-29 aircraft were restored.[43] In August a decommissioned An-26 transport aircraft was also restored to active service by a volunteer group.[44] In January 2015 the air force received another 4 newly restored airplanes, two MiG-29s and two Su-27s, as well as two Mi-8 and Mi-2 helicopters.[45][46]

 
A Ukrainian Tu-143

As a result of the war in Donbas the government of Ukraine realized the importance of drone surveillance in locating enemy troops, and recommissioned 68 Soviet era Tu-141 drones to be repaired. Analysts pointed out that despite being designed in 1979 the Tu-141 has a powerful camera, it likely uses similar airborne radar and infrared sensor as the Soviet-era Su-24 which would make it prone to jamming by Russian forces as they use the same equipment.[47]

A crowd funding project for a "people's drone" aimed to purchase an American or Israeli drone. However, Ukrainian designers and engineers were able to build their own model based on the commercially available DJI Phantom 2 drone.[48]

In October 2014, students from Ivano-Frankivsk designed their own drone to be used in the war in Donbas. The drone could broadcast live pictures, unlike the Tu-141 which relies on film that must be recovered. The drone was built from off the shelf components and funded by volunteers. The drone was also stated to have an operational ceiling of 7,000 meters, a range of 25 kilometers, and cost about US$4,000 to build.[49][50]

In 2015, Ukroboronprom received a 2.5 million ($166,000) order to refit several Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunships, part of which included fitting them with night vision capabilities. The Mi-24 proved to be highly vulnerable to Russian separatist attacks during the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine. With the exception of captured aircraft in Crimean airbases the Mi-24 had the highest loss rate of all aircraft in Ukraine's inventory, with 5 being shot down and 4 damaged during the conflict.[51]

Developments towards restoration

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Starting in 1993 the United States National Guard worked with the Ukrainian Air Force as part of a NATO sponsored program. The Ukrainian Air Force worked with the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing and pilots exercised together, including in 2011 and 2018.[52] In 2014, various aircraft were repaired and transferred to the Ukrainian Air Force.[53][54][55][56] On 5 August 2014 an order No. 499 was issued allocating finances to modernize all Su-27 to the Su-27B1M, Su-27P1M, Su-27S1M, and on 3 October 2014 Kanatovo Air Base in the Kirovograd Oblast was brought back to life.[citation needed] There were plans to begin licensed production of the Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter in Lviv. However, these plans have stalled since 2014.[57] As of August 2023, Ukraine has lost 69 aircraft in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, but they have been receiving equipment and funding from other countries.[58][59]

Role in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine

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On Thursday, 24 February 2022, the Air Force began to respond to the advance of Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft and materiel towards Ukrainian skies as part of the country's invasion by the Russian Armed Forces.[60]

The Russian Defence Ministry claimed that over 100 air defence systems and over 90 aircraft had been disabled or destroyed by 6 March 2022, which has not been confirmed by independent sources.[61] No official figures from the Ukrainian Defence Ministry were immediately available. According to US defense officials, UKAF still had 56 operational fighter jets as of 11 March 2022.[62]

In April 2022, an unspecified country offered parts to help Ukraine restore 20 aircraft to operational usage, a US defence official claimed.[63]

On 19 September, US Air Force General James B. Hecker said that Ukrainian air defences had shot down 55 Russian warplanes since the start of the invasion. He credited this success to the Ukrainian use of SA-11 and SA-10 air defence systems. As the US doesn't have these systems getting new missiles from European allies was a "big ask" from Kyiv. Russian airplanes increased their operations due to the 2022 Ukrainian Kharkiv Oblast counteroffensive. The tally went to 55 after the UK MoD stated that it believed that some 4 Russian jets had been downed by Ukraine over the previous 10 days. This was due to a number of factors including changing front lines, or the fact that they were under pressure to provide closer ground support. He further claimed that the Ukrainian Air Force was at about 80% of its pre-invasion strength after 7 months of combat.[64][65]

In May 2023 the BBC interviewed several Ukrainian Air Force pilots. Even with MiG-29s supplied from Slovakia and Poland these are still old, with the same Soviet era equipment and radars as their own Ukrainian aircraft. When long range radar guided missiles, such as the R-37M, are fired by Russian aircraft Ukrainian pilots have to rely on ground radar to warn them verbally. Once a launch is detected pilots must abandon their mission and fly extremely low. Another pilot said that his radar cannot see cruise missiles, so they can't be shot down. Most of the pilots fly extremely low during attack missions. When they are in action they use Soviet era unguided bombs and rockets. Due to these limitations one pilot estimates that "they (Ukrainian pilots) carry out up to 20 times fewer sorties than the Russian Air Force."[66]

As of 4 August, since 2023 began, the Ukrainian Air Force has lost seven aircraft, "four MiG-29s, an Su-24, an Su-25 and an Su-27". The reduced rate of loss, compared to 62 aircraft in 2022, is credited to longer range western weapons.[58]

Equipment

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The last reliable information of the number of Ukrainian Air Force operational aircraft came in December 2021; during the current escalation of fighting, losses, technical refitting and donations may have changed the equipment numbers reported below.

Aircraft

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As of December 2023, the amount of aircraft that are still in service, especially fighter aircraft, is uncertain. Ukraine had 43 MiG-29s, 12 Su-24s, 17 Su-25s, and 26 Su-27s in active service in 2021 according to data from Flight Global.[2]

In February 2022, Ukraine had around 50 MiG-29S, MiG-29MU1, and MiG-29MU2 in service and a couple dozen of Su-27s in service including Su-27S, Su-27P, Su-27UB, Su-27PU, Su-27S1M, Su-27P1M, Su-27UBM1, and Su-27PU1M variants according to Forbes. Since then, Poland and Slovakia donated 27 MiG-29G and MiG-29AS in 2023, while Ukraine has been able to restore some grounded Su-27s back to service.[67]

F-16 procurement

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In May 2023, the United States indicated support for training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 fighters and for allies to transfer the aircraft to Ukraine.[68][69] Jets announced to be donated will be delivered to Ukraine once the Ukrainian pilots have completed their training.[70]

Denmark will provide 19 F-16 aircraft and the Netherlands will attempt to provide up to 100% of their remaining fleet (42 aircraft),[71] with the exception of the aircraft required for the training of Ukrainian pilots and maintenance personnel that will take place in Denmark and Romania. Denmark aims to deliver six F-16s by April 2024,[72] then eight F-16s in the rest of the year and five afterwards.[73] The Netherlands committed to an initial delivery of 18 aircraft.[74]

Norway will provide two F-16s to train Ukrainian pilots,[75] while the total number of aircraft provided to Ukraine will probably be less than 10.[76] Belgium announced that they will send a total of 30 F-16s to Ukraine by 2028, with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy stating that the first aircraft will be delivered by the end of 2024.[77]

All F-16 aircraft supplied by Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Belgium will be the F-16AM (single-seat) / F-16BM (twin-seat) Block 15 Mid-Life Update (MLU) variants. These variants are analogous to the F-16C/D Block 50/52.[78][79]

Mirage 2000-5 procurement

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On 6 June 2024, according to Le Figaro, French president Emmanuel Macron announced the future transfer of an unspecified number of Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets to Ukraine.[80]

Current inventory

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Su-27 over Royal International Air Tattoo (2018)
 
Ukrainian Su-25
 
An Mi-8 helicopter lifts off from the military training academy in Odesa
Aircraft Origin Type Variant In service Notes
Combat aircraft
Mikoyan MiG-29 Soviet Union Multirole 55[81] 8 are used for conversion training.[81]
Sukhoi Su-24 Soviet Union Attack Su-24M,
Su-24MR
14[81] Modified to carry and fire Storm Shadow missiles.[82]
Sukhoi Su-25 Soviet Union Attack / Close air support Su-25/UB,
Su-25K,
Su-25M1
20[81] 4 are used for conversion training.[81]
Sukhoi Su-27 Soviet Union Multirole Su-27UB,
Su-27S1M,
Su-27P1M
31[81] 6 are used for conversion training.[81]
General Dynamics F-16 United States Multirole F-16AM/BM Up to 61 to enter service in 2024.[67][82]
Dassault Mirage 2000 France Multirole Mirage 2000-5 Unspecified number to be transferred from France.[83]
Reconnaissance
Antonov An-30 Soviet Union Surveillance An-30B 3[81]
SAAB 340 Sweden AEW&C ASC 890 2 to be delivered.[84]
Transport
Antonov An-26 Soviet Union Transport An-24/26 22[81]
Antonov An-70 Ukraine Transport 1[85]
Antonov An-178 Ukraine Transport 3 on order.[81]
Helicopters
Mil Mi-8 Soviet Union Transport / Utility Mi-8TB,
Mi-8MSB-V
15[81]
Mil Mi-9 Soviet Union Command post 2+[86]
Mil Mi-17 Russia Transport / Utility Mi-17V-5
Mi-17M
Mi-171E
22[86] Donated by several countries since 2022[87]
Trainer aircraft
Aero L-39 Czechoslovakia Jet trainer L-39C,
L-39M1
44[81]
Unmanned aerial vehicle
Tupolev Tu-141 Soviet Union Reconnaissance ?[86] Modified as a loitering munition.[88]
Bayraktar TB2 Turkey Unmanned combat aerial vehicle ?[86] 72 delivered between 2019 and 2022. At least 8 were donated by Baykar.[87]
UJ-22 Ukraine Multirole ?[86]

Retired

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Previous aircraft operated were the MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-25, MiG-27, Sukhoi Su-17, Sukhoi Su-15, Yakovlev Yak-28, Tupolev Tu-160, Tupolev Tu-95, Tupolev Tu-22M, Tupolev Tu-22, Tupolev Tu-16, Tupolev Tu-154, and the Tupolev Tu-134[89]

Armament

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Name Origin Type Variant Notes
Air-launched cruise missiles
Storm Shadow / SCALP-EG France
United Kingdom
Long-range cruise missile [86]
Air-to-air missiles
R-73 Soviet Union Short-range [86]
R-60 Soviet Union Short-range [86]
R-27 Soviet Union Medium-range R-27ET
R-27R
R-27ER
[86]
AIM-9 Sidewinder United States Short-range Used for NASAMS systems.[87]
AIM-120 AMRAAM United States Medium-range Used for NASAMS systems.[87]
AIM-7 Sparrow United States Medium-range Used in the surface-to-air role.[87]
RIM-7 Sea Sparrow United States Short-range Used in the surface-to-air role.[87]
ASRAAM United Kingdom Short-range AIM-132 Used in the surface-to-air role.[90]
Air-to-surface missile
Kh-25 Soviet Union Kh-25ML
Kh-25MP[86]
[91]
Kh-29 Soviet Union [86]
AGM-88 HARM[86] United States Anti-radiation missile Mounted on modified MiG-29 fighters.[92]
Decoy missiles
ADM-160 MALD[86] United States ADM-160B Mounted on modified MiG-29s.[93]
Guided bombs
KAB-1500L Soviet Union Laser guided [94]
KAB-500KR Soviet Union TV guided [94]
MAM-L Turkey For Baykar Bayraktar TB2.[59]
MAM-C Turkey For Baykar Bayraktar TB2.[59]
Joint Direct Attack Munition[95] United States JDAM-ER Mounted on modified MiG-29 fighters.[92]
GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb United States [96]
Armement Air-Sol Modulaire[95] France Mounted on modified MiG-29 fighters.[92]
Paveway United Kingdom Paveway IV To be supplied by the UK.[97][98]
Unguided bombs
OFAB-100-120 Soviet Union [99]
OFAB 250-270 Soviet Union High explosive fragmentation.[91]
FAB-250 Soviet Union [99]
FAB-500 Soviet Union OFAB-500ShR Parachute retarded fragmentation bomb.[100]
Unguided rockets
Zuni United States 4,000 delivered by the United States.[101]
S-8 Soviet Union [99]
S-13 Soviet Union [91]
S-24 Soviet Union S-24B [91]
S-25 Soviet Union S-25OF [91]
Hydra 70 United States Used on Su-25 bombers and Mi-8 helicopters.[102]
Illumination bombs
SAB-250-200 Soviet Union [99]

Air Defense

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IRIS-T SLM SAM Air defense system
 
9K37 Buk M1 SAM Air Defense system
Name Origin Type In service Pledged Notes
Surface-to-air missile
S-300PS
S-300PT
S-300PMU
Soviet Union Mobile long-range SAM 200[86]
8[86]
One S-300PMU battery was donated by Slovakia in 2022.[103]
S-200 Soviet Union Static long-range SAM ? Reactivated in 2024.[104][105]
2K12 Kub Soviet Union Mobile medium-range SAM 3+[106] 2[107]
9K37 Buk M1 Soviet Union Mobile medium-range SAM 50[86] Modified to fire AIM-7 Sparrow/RIM-7 Sea Sparrow missiles.[108]
S-125 Neva/Pechora Soviet Union Mobile short-range SAM 8[109] Modernized to the S-125-2D standard.[110] The Polish S-125 Newa-SC is also used.[111]
IRIS-T SLM Germany Mobile medium-range SAM 3[112] 9[112]
NASAMS Norway /
United States
Mobile short- to medium-range SAM 6[87] 10[87]
MIM-104 Patriot United States Mobile long-range anti-ballistic missile system 3[87] 1[112]
SAMP/T Italy / France Mobile long-range ABM 1[87]
Aspide Italy Mobile medium-range SAM 3[59] Spada 2000 donated by Spain. Skyguard Aspide and Spada systems donated by Italy.[59]
MIM-23 Hawk United States Mobile medium-range SAM 4[86] To be upgraded.[113]
Anti-aircraft guns
ZU-23-2 Soviet Union Towed AA gun [85]

Radars

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Model Country of origin Type Number Details
P-14 Soviet Union Early-warning radar N/A [114]
P-18 Soviet Union Early-warning radar N/A Being modernized to the P-18C standard.[115] The Lithuanian P-18ML and Ukrainian P-18 "Malakhit" modernisation have both been seen in use.[114]
P-19 Soviet Union Mobile surveillance radar N/A [114]
P-35 Soviet Union Early-warning radar N/A [114]
1L22 "Parol" Soviet Union Mobile radar N/A [114]
PRV-11 [ru] Soviet Union Towed radar N/A [114]
PRV-13 [ru] Soviet Union Towed radar N/A [114]
PRV-16 [ru] Soviet Union Mobile radar N/A In service during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Lithuanian modernsation PRV-16ML has been seen in use.[114]
R-410 Soviet Union Tropospheric scatter N/A [114]
36D6 'Tin Shield Soviet Union Air surveillance radar 1+ Part of the S-300 radar complex. 1 donated by Slovakia.[116]
5N66M 'Clam Shell' Soviet Union Target acquisition radar 1+ Part of the S-300 radar complex. 1 donated by Slovakia.[116]
5N63S 'Flap Lid B' Soviet Union Engagement/fire-control radar 1+ Fire control radar for S-300. 1 donated by Slovakia.[116]
SURN 1S91 Soviet Union Target acquisition and distribution radar 3+ Part of the 2K12 Kub radar complex. 1 donated by Slovakia.[116] 2 donated by Czech Republic.[117]
AN/MPQ-61 United States Pulse acquisition radar 1 Provided with the MIM-23 Hawk battery donated by Spain in December 2022.[118][119]
AN/MPQ-62 United States CW acquisition radar 1 Provided with the MIM-23 Hawk battery donated by Spain in December 2022.[118][119]
AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel United States Towed air surveillance radar 8[87]
TRML Germany Early-warning radar 9[112]
Ground Master 200 France Mobile air surveillance radar 1[87] Contract signed between Ukraine and Thales for 2 systems.[120]
Thomson-CSF RAC 3D France Air surveillance radar 1 Provided by Spain with the Aspide 2000 battery.[119]
PS-90 Sweden Early warning Radar 1[87]
VERA passive radar Czech Republic Long range passive radar 4 Pledged by the Netherlands.[121]

Branches of the Air Force

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Troop badges of the Air Force
Aviation
Anti-aircraft missile troops
Radio engineering troops

Anti-Aircraft Missile Defense Forces

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The Anti-Aircraft Missile Defense Forces Corps were created after the 2004 merger of the Air Force and the Ukrainian Air Defense Forces. It allowed the Armed Forces of Ukraine to adopt the tri-service structure,[122] common to most modern armed forces in the world as of present. Personnel of this force fall under the direct control of the Ukrainian Air Force General Command.[123]

It is a Corps[citation needed] dedicated to anti-air defense operations in defense of air force bases and facilities and other structures of state as well as economic complexes and others as mandated by law, as well as provide support to elements of the Ground Forces, Marine Corps and Navy in combat operations.[124]

As a Corps of the Air Force, it is organized on regional lines, each Air Force Regional Command hosting a number of air defense missile artillery regiments or brigades.[citation needed]

Structure

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As of August 2023 the structure is as follows:[citation needed]

Ukrainian Air Force
Aviation Corps
Name Equipment Higher Command Air Base
7th Tactical Aviation Brigade Su-24M/MR Air Force General Command Starokostiantyniv Air Base
15th Transport Aviation Brigade An-24, An-26, An-30B, Tu-134A-3, Mi-8 Air Force General Command Boryspil International Airport
25th Transport Aviation Brigade Il-76M/MD, Il-78, An-26 Air Force General Command N/A (before the war Melitopol Air Base)
39th Tactical Aviation Brigade Su-27 Air Command "Central" Ozerne Air Base
40th Tactical Aviation Brigade MiG-29 Air Command "Central" Vasylkiv Air Base
114th Tactical Aviation Brigade MiG-29 Air Command "West" Ivano-Frankivsk Air Base
203rd Training Aviation Brigade L-39, An-26, Mi-2 National Air Force University N/A (before the war Chuhuiv Air Base)
204th Tactical Aviation Brigade Mig-29 Air Command "West" Lutsk Air Base
299th Tactical Aviation Brigade Su-25 Air Force General Command Kulbakino Air Base
383rd Unmanned Aircraft Regiment Bayraktar TB2 Air Force General Command Khmelnytskyi Air Base
456th Transport Aviation Brigade An-12, An-24, An-26, Mi-8 Air Force General Command Havryshivka Air Base
831st Tactical Aviation Brigade Su-27 Air Command "Central" Myrhorod Air Base
Anti-Aircraft Defense Missile Artillery Corps
Name Equipment Higher Command Location
Brigades
96th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade S-300PS, Patriot[125] Air Command "Central" Danylivka
138th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade S-300PS, S-300PT, Patriot[126] Air Command "East" Dnipro
160th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade S-300PS Air Command "South" Odesa
201st Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade S-300PS, S-300V1 Air Command "South" Pervomaisk
208th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade S-300PS, S-300PT Air Command "South" Kherson
Regiments
11th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment Buk-M1 Air Command "West" Shepetivka
156th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment Buk-M1 Air Command "Central" Zolotonosha
210th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment S-300V1 Air Command "Central" Uman
223rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment Buk-M1 Air Command "West" Stryi
301st Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment S–300PS Air Command "East" Nikopol
302nd Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment S–300PT Air Command "East" Kharkiv
540th Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment S–300PS, S–300PT Air Command "West" Kamianka-Buzka
Radio-Technical Troops
Name Equipment Higher Command Location
1st Radio Technical Brigade Air Command "West" Lypniki
14th Radio Technical Brigade Air Command "South" Odesa
19th Special Purpose Radio Intercept Brigade Air Force General Command Halytsynov
138th Radio Technical Brigade Air Command "Central" Vasylkiv
164th Radio Technical Brigade Air Command "East" Kharkiv
Signal Corps
Name Equipment Higher Command Location
31st Communication Regiment Air Command "Central" Kyiv
43rd Communication Regiment Air Command "South" Odesa
57th Communication Regiment Air Command "East" Dnipro
76th Communication Regiment Air Command "West" Lypniki
101st Communication Regiment Air Force General Command Vinnytsia
182nd Communication Regiment Air Force General Command Vinnytsia
Electronic Warfare Corps
Name Equipment Higher Command Location
17th Electronic Warfare Battalion Air Command "West" Kolomyia
1194th Electronic Warfare Battalion Air Command "South" Pervomaisk
2204th Electronic Warfare Battalion Air Command "Central" Vasylkiv
Air Force ground forces
Name Equipment Higher Command Location
(1st) Air Force Rifle Brigade Air Force General Command
28th Airfield Engineer Battalion Air Command "South" Mykolaiv
352nd Airfield Engineer Battalion Air Command "West" Khmelnytskyi

Geographic distribution

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Military ranks

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Officers

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Rank group General/Flag/Air officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
  Ukrainian Air Force[127]
                     
Генерал
Heneral
Генерал-лейтенант
Heneral-leytenant
Генерал-майор
Heneral-mayor
Бригадний генерал
Bryhadnyy heneral
Полковник
Polkovnyk
Підполковник
Pidpolkovnyk
Майор
Mayor
Капітан
Kapitan
Старший лейтенант
Starshyy leytenant
Лейтенант
Leytenant
Молодший лейтенант
Molodshyy leytenant

Other ranks and NCOs

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Rank group Senior NCOs Junior NCOs Enlisted
  Ukrainian Air Force[127]
                   
Головний майстер-сержант
Holovnyi maister-serzhant
Старший майстер-сержант
Starshyi maister-serzhant
Майстер-сержант
Maister-serzhant
Штаб-сержант
Shtab-serzhant
Головний сержант
Holovnyi serzhant
Старший сержант
Starshyi serzhant
Сержант
Serzhant
Молодший сержант
Molodshyi serzhant
Старший солдат
Starshyi soldat
Солдат
Soldat

Training

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Training activities have taken on a qualitatively new character due to their complexity, including the simultaneous employment of all branches of the Air Force aviation, anti-aircraft artillery and radar troops in close teamwork with units of other armed services of the Armed Forces. Operational and combat training has included the following activities:

 
Ukrainian Su-25UBs
  1. Aviation units have performed more than 6,000 tasks in combat scenarios (including more than 1,500 air battles and interceptions, 629 firing at land-based targets, 530 bombings, 21 launches of air missiles, 454 tasks in aerial surveillance, 454 airborne landings, 740 airlifts, 575 flight shifts for a total of 10,553 flying hours);
  2. Five tactical flying missions in a squadron, 14 in a pair and 5 in a flight organization have been carried out to perform the assigned combat tasks, and 54 pilots have been trained to perform specific tasks in difficult meteorological conditions;
  3. The number of flight crews being trained to defend the air space of the country and counter-terrorism air operations has almost doubled from 46 in 2005 to 90 in 2006; the units of anti-aircraft artillery and radar troops carried out 50 maneuvers involving redeployment, with each operator tracking 70 and 140 real and simulated targets, respectively.

In early September 2007, the Ukrainian Air Force conducted the most large-scale training of its aircraft to date. As the Defense Minister of Ukraine, Anatoliy Hrytsenko stated, "The most large-scale, during the whole 16 years of the Ukrainian independence, training of fighting aircraft, which defends our air space, was carried out during September 4–5". According to him, they fulfilled 45 battle launches of air-to-air missile, out of them 22 during the day and 23 at night. 35 pilots confirmed their high skills during the training. Hrytsenko stressed that 100% of air targets were hit.[128]

The Kharkiv State Aircraft Manufacturing Company developed the KhAZ-30 ultralight trainer for the Ukrainian Airforce. The aircraft is designed for elementary pilot training as an introductory aircraft before recruits move on the more advanced Aero L-39 Albatros trainer.[129]

Invasion of Ukraine

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Shooting down cruise missiles became important as the war progressed, so pilots received specialist training. The same tactics are used to intercept drones. Pilots use their infrared search and track to detect cruise missiles and drones by their heat signature. They were trained to do this using simulators. Whereas most cruise missiles fly low and are hard to detect, Russian cruise missiles leave a heat signature from their “conventional two-circuit jet engines”. President Zelenskyy singled out the 204th Tactical Aviation Brigade for praise in shooting down drones. As surface to air missiles run out the fighters are called upon to do more work.[130]

See also

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Bibliography

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  • Hoyle, Craig (December 2021). World Air Forces 2022 (Report). London: Flight Global Insight. Retrieved 22 March 2022.
  • Hoyle, Craig (December 2023). World Air Forces 2024. FlightGlobal (Report). London: Flight Global Insight. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  • International Institute for Strategic Studies (15 February 2023). The Military Balance 2023 (Report). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-000-91070-4.
  • International Institute for Strategic Studies (2024). "Russia and Eurasia". The Military Balance 2024. 124. Taylor & Francis: 210−215. doi:10.1080/04597222.2024.2298592.

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